Countdown Begins for Chinese Space Station to Plummet to Earth

Countdown Begins for Chinese Space Station to Plummet to Earth

Countdown Begins for Chinese Space Station to Plummet to Earth

Earlier in 2016, China had admitted that it had lost control of Tiangong-1, which is now hurtling towards the Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry.

"The only known case of space debris striking a person is Ms. Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma who was struck by a small piece of space debris in 1996 but was not harmed in any significant way", according to Aerospace.

Scientists from the US-funded Aerospace Corporation have not been able to predict exactly where the hefty module will hit, but Aerospace said in a statement said that there was "a chance that a small amount of debris" from the module would hit the Earth.

Just as wide is the potential window of where the space station will be potentially crash into Earth, with somewhere in the northern US states, parts of South America, northern China, the Middle east, central Italy, northern Spain, New Zealand, the south of Africa or Tasmania in Australia all considered viable options at the moment. Tiangong-1's reentry would've been controlled by firing its engines to slow it down enough so that it would fall toward Earth.

The eight-tonne Tiangong-1 satellite contains toxic hydrazine - and debris could hit the ground in Europe, experts have warned.

The geographical range of where it will touch down is still completely uncertain, with the final spot extending from 43 degrees North to 43 degrees South latitude.

Although the uncontrolled descent of Tiangong-1 is something of a PR embarrassment, it has not deterred the Chinese government.

Tiangong 1 re-entry window as
Tiangong 1 re-entry window as

Tiangong-1 is not created to withstand re-entry, as some spacecraft are.

'Potentially, there may be a highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine on board the spacecraft that could survive reentry. "It looked like a piece of fabric except when you tap it, it sounded metallic".

China's Tiangong-1 space lab "was billed as a potent symbol of the country's rise when it launched in 2011", says CNN.

Generally, objects will burn up for a few seconds upon re-entering, looking a lot like shooting stars blazing a trail of fire behind them.

The Long March II-F rocket carrying China's Tiangong-1 lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province September 29, 2011.

But it's also important to keep an eye out for the massive Tiangong-1, as Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, told the Guardian that "Tiangong-1 is big and dense so we need to keep an eye on it".

The Chinese module was used for both manned and unmanned missions and visited by China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, in 2012. While the space lab was expected to end its operation in 2013, the Chinese space agency made a decision to extend its lifespan for a few more years. In 1991, the 20-tonne Salyut 7 space station of Soviet Union bragged into the Earth docked to Cosmos 1686.

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